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United Airlines to Pay $321,000 to Settle Revenge Porn Lawsuit Brought On Behalf of Flight Attendant

United Airlines to Pay $321,000 to Settle Revenge Porn Lawsuit Brought On Behalf of Flight Attendant

United Airlines Ordered to Pay $321,000 in Revenge Porn Lawsuit
Story Highlights
  • United to pay $321,000 plus legal fees for failing to prevent sexual harassment
  • Long-serving flight attendant targeted by senior United pilot who shared pornographic photos of her online
  • Captain was eventually arrested in 2015 for stalking and sentenced to three years imprisonment
  • Despite his arrest, United allowed the pilot to retire with full benefits

United Airlines has agreed to pay $321,000 to settle a revenge porn lawsuit brought on behalf of a flight attendant by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.  The lawsuit, which was originally filed in August 2018 but only settled on Friday, alleged a senior pilot at the airline regularly posted sexually explicit photos, videos and stories of the flight attendant on the internet without her consent.

The long-serving flight attendant who had worked for United Airlines since 1989, had been in a “consensual intimate relationship” with now-retired pilot and Captain Mark Uhlenbrock between about 2002 and 2006.  During their relationship, the victim allowed Uhlenbrock to take photos and videos of her in “provocative poses”.

Photo by Blake Guidry on Unsplash

But the flight attendant, who was only identified as Jane Doe in the lawsuit, broke off her relationship with Uhlenbrock when she discovered he had allegedly posted these photos and videos on various internet sites without her knowledge or consent.  In fact, she only realised these images had been shared when a United Airlines gate agent told her he had seen the photos on a website for swingers.

Uhlenbrock allegedly refused to take down the pornographic images and once the relationship finished, continued to regularly post the photos on various websites.  Even after the victim obtained an injunctive court order against her ex-boyfriend, he allegedly continued to post embarrassing photos and videos of her online – including during layovers when he was being paid by United Airlines.

The victim discovered at least two of her co-workers had seen her photos and worried that passengers would identify her because Uhlenbrock posted photos of her in uniform and shared details about her profession and home-base.  In at least one post, Uhlenbrock allegedly wrote that she was a “new reason to ‘fly the friendly skies'”, referencing United’s famous advertising slogan.

Photo Credit: United Airlines

Eventually, the victim approached United Airlines for help but rather than receiving support, the lawsuit claimed United failed to take appropriate preventative or corrective action against the Captain.  It’s claimed no disciplinary action was taken, even when a second complaint was made by a second flight attendant years after the original allegations were made.

Uhlenbrock was eventually stopped in 2015 when the FBI arrested and charged him with stalking.  He pleaded guilty to stalking in June 2016 and despite being sentenced to over 3-years imprisonment, United Airlines allowed him to retire with full benefits in July 2016.

“Employers must not ignore harassment complaints simply because the harasser holds a position of authority,” warned EEOC Supervisory Trial Attorney Eduardo Juarez.

Along with agreeing to pay monetary damages of $321,000, plus attorney’s fees United Airlines has also agreed to revise its sexual harassment policies explicitly to include harassing conduct perpetrated through the internet or social media – whether on or off duty.

 

 

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